Yesterday we opined that Bristol and Levi's (Brevi's?) engagement was all a big ploy by Sarah Palin. Whether or not that's true, the question remains — what's in it for Levi?
Slate's Jessica Grose disagrees with our theory — she says Levi himself has plenty of good reasons to want to get hitched. Grose writes,
Like many working-class men, Levi lost his macho job during the recession. Instead of stepping up into his new role as a father or finding a new career, he watched TV all day and then posed for Playgirl. At the same time, Bristol was going to college and holding down a job as an assistant at a dermatologist's office-a stereotypically female profession. Levi seems to have realized that without Bristol, he truly is adrift. From what he says to Us, it sounds like he feels the limelight was a cold and empty place, and now he vows that he's going to get his GED and become an electrician. This isn't a dastardly scheme from Sarah P. to make herself look sympathetic. It just sounds like Levi is struggling to find his place in a world where his skills-good looks, physical strength (he ain't the brightest sweater in the drawer)-aren't of much use to anyone anymore.
Salon's Amy Benfer, too, looks at Brevi through a class lens. She reminds us that young working-class parents have long been encouraged to marry — she mentions Bush's Healthy Marriage Initiative, "which started from the premise that two-parent families tended, statistically speaking, to make more money and provide more stable homes for children, and thus decreed that the best way to make poor, unstable single parents into stable, affluent families was to marry them off to one another." This approach doesn't always work — concludes Benfer, "I'm still of the mind that a college diploma and decent job skills are a much better guarantee of young family's healthy future than a marriage license." But is Levi a typical working-class man, sideswiped by the new economy, looking for stability in the place conservatives have traditionally located it: marriage and family?
Not exactly. As Benfer points out, "right now — thanks to speaking fees, tabloid interviews and skin mags — neither Bristol nor Levi is poor." But there's more to their situation than that. Bristol's not just a bootstrapping young woman with a decent job, she's also the scion of the Palin family and a major part of the powerful Palin brand. That brand is growing (they have the t-shirts to prove it!), and that brand is also Levi's only real claim to fame. The more estranged he got from Bristol and her family, the less famous he became — and he may well have realized that. So maybe Levi found the limelight "a cold and empty place" — but maybe he just saw that a life with Bristol would bring him a lot closer to that limelight.
Of course, the Palin brand depends to some degree on whether its originator gets to the White House in 2012. Commentators, even on the right, are skeptical. Laura Ingraham says of her chances, "People are very, very wedded to this idea that you have to have an enormous amount of experience to be able to handle what's coming at us [ed. imagine that!] and I don't know if she-I don't know. I don't know. I just don't know." Mark McKinnon concurs: "Palin isn't ready to run. And the country isn't ready for her to run."
McKinnon also says, "If she runs and loses the Republican nomination, her opportunity to influence the future is diminished." But Palin's influence is, in some ways, broader than a mere presidential election. She has the Tea Party, and she has an acknowledged slot as the spokeswoman for Real America. She even has a kids' book! A loss in 2012 might dull her star a bit, but many of her supporters revel in her outsider status, and she could probably continue speaking for — and selling to — a certain fairly large chunk of American society for a long time to come. And if Levi stands with her, he can capitalize on that too (perhaps even with his own reality show!). Maybe it's love that brought Levi back into the Palin fold, and maybe it's desperation. But then again, maybe he just did the math.
Image via Us.
Levi Johnston And The Problems Of The Working-Class Man [Slate]
Bristol And Levi: Family Values Role Models [Salon]
She Is Running! [Daily Beast]
The Right's Queen Doubts Palin [Daily Beast, via Yahoo! News]
Bristol Palin: How Levi Johnston Proposed To Me [Us Weekly]
Another Palin Reality Show? [Political Wire]